Ian Murray resigns from Labour shadow cabinet

Ian Murray. Picture: TSPL

Ian Murray. Picture: TSPL

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Edinburgh South MP Ian Murray has joined the growing number of his colleagues who have stepped down from the Labour shadow cabinet.

The Edinburgh South MP’s decision will increase the pressure on Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, with a string of shadow cabinet resignations expected today.

Mr Murray is Labour’s only MP in Scotland.

Mr Murray told the BBC: “I just don’t think that Jeremy Corbyn is able to lead us, to be prime minister, and I am not just doing this in public, I raised it at our emergency shadow cabinet on Friday.

“I did say to the shadow cabinet, and to Jeremy directly, that I didn’t think, at this moment in time, that he could be prime minister, and if he thought he could be prime minister, then he’s talking to the wrong people, and needs to change.

“His change seems to have been to sack Hilary Been. I think that’s the wrong way to go, and I think this is the final straw for many people in the shadow cabinet who served for unity in the party and also in the country, but we do need change now because the Labour Party cannot win a general election in its current state.”

In a series of staged announcements, shadow education secretary Lucy Powell, shadow health secretary Heidi Alexander, shadow minister for young people Gloria De Piero, shadow environment secretary Kerry McCarthy and shadow transport secretary Lilian Greenwood all said they were resigning.

Shadow Northern Ireland secretary Vernon Coaker disclosed that he is considering his position, while Labour sources said shadow Commons leader Chris Bryant is also expected to go.

The walkouts were triggered by the sacking overnight of shadow foreign secretary Hilary Benn amid reports that he was working to co-ordinate a coup against Mr Corbyn.

Shadow chancellor John McDonnell, one of Mr Corbyn’s closest allies, insisted the leader has no intention of bowing to the demands to go.

“Jeremy’s not going anywhere,” he told the BBC’s Sunday Politics.

“He was elected nine months ago, the biggest mandate of any political leader in our country, and he is not going anywhere.”

But rebel MPs warned that Mr Corbyn would be unable to form a new shadow ministerial team if he tries to struggle on.

Ms Alexander said there are “a fair number” of other senior Labour figures considering their positions.

Asked how many could join her in resigning, she told ITV1’s Peston on Sunday: “I think that there are a fair number of people who do feel similarly to me.

“I know a lot of my colleagues will be asking themselves similar questions to the one I’ve asked myself this morning.”

The walkouts were triggered by the sacking overnight of shadow foreign secretary Hilary Benn amid reports that he was working to co-ordinate a coup against the Labour leader.

Shadow chancellor John McDonnell, one of Mr Corbyn’s closest allies, insisted the leader has no intention of bowing to demands to go.

“Jeremy’s not going anywhere,” he told the BBC’s Sunday Politics. “He was elected nine months ago, the biggest mandate of any political leader in our country, and he is not going anywhere.”

But rebel MPs warned Mr Corbyn would be unable to form a new shadow ministerial team if he tries to struggle on.

Ms Alexander said there are “a fair number” of other senior Labour figures considering their positions.

Asked how many could join her in resigning, she told ITV1’s Peston on Sunday: “I think that there are a fair number of people who do feel similarly to me.

“I know a lot of my colleagues will be asking themselves similar questions to the one I’ve asked myself this morning.”

The resignations came as MPs prepared to discuss a motion of no confidence in Mr Corbyn - tabled by the veteran backbencher Dame Margaret Hodge - at the weekly meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party on Monday.

It is expected to be followed by a vote of MPs in a secret ballot the next day. Although the motion has no formal standing, rebels are hoping that if it is passed his position will become untenable.

In a letter to Labour MPs, Dame Margaret warned the party could face a disaster at the polls if - as many MPs expect - the Conservatives trigger a snap general election.

“If a general election is called later this year, which is a very real prospect, we believe that under Jeremy’s leadership we could be looking at political oblivion,” she said.

But Mr McDonnell insisted there is no mood for a change at the top of the party among the grassroots activists who swept Mr Corbyn to the leadership and who would decide any contest.

He acknowledged, however, that a challenge may be unavoidable and said he is ready to chair Mr Corbyn’s campaign committee, as he did in last year’s leadership election.

“If there is a leadership election, I’m hoping that we can get that over with fairly quickly, and we can get back to business in September,” he told BBC News.

“If it is triggered fairly quickly... I think we should try and get it over with in two months at least, maybe three maximum, but come back at least in October and get Jeremy back in position so we can then go straight into what could be a general election campaign.”

Shadow international development secretary Diane Abbott - another of Mr Corbyn’s allies - angrily accused the rebels of plotting their move for months.

“The truth about today’s coup attempt is that it has been long-planned,” she told BBC News.

“This has been planned for months and ordinary party members will not understand why Labour MPs want to set themselves at odds with the membership and, at this very difficult time, choose to play what are essentially Westminster games.”

Mr Benn, who has been at odds with Mr Corbyn since they took opposing sides in the Commons vote on military action in Syria, said the party needs “strong and effective leadership” in the wake of the referendum vote.

“We don’t currently have that and there is also no confidence that we will be able to win a general election as long as Jeremy remains leader,” he told BBC1’s The Andrew Marr Show.

“It is for each individual to make their own decision, I have made mine and I made my views clear to Jeremy. He is a good and decent man but he is not a leader and that is the problem.”

Leaked documents suggest Mr Corbyn’s team moved to delay and water down the Labour Remain campaign, the BBC reports.

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